Cocker Spaniels are the smallest members of the Spaniel family but hugely popular.
They’ve earned a reputation for being affectionate, charming and lovable dogs, partly thanks to their long eyelashes and striking eyes.
Cocker Spaniels were originally bred to be hunting dogs, with a particular interest in woodcock.
It’s important to note that there are two types of Cocker Spaniels: the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel.
The AKC explain that the English Cocker Spaniel was characterized as being taller and with a longer head than the American Cocker Spaniel, with a coat that was not as profuse.
The Cocker Spaniel was registered as a breed with the Kennel Club in 1940 before the American Kennel Club granted status to the American variety in 1946. You won’t be surprised to learn that the Cocker Spaniel was considered the most popular breed of the 1940s.
The breed was further popularised by hit Disney film, Lady And The Tramp after its release in 1955.
While they’re no longer the most popular dog breed in the USA, they’re still in the top 30 (at no29).
In this article, we’re going to take a look at Cocker Spaniel pros and cons, examining the advantages and the disadvantages of the breed.
So without further ado, let’s delve into the world of Cocker Spaniels.
Cocker Spaniel Pros
Eager to please
Cocker Spaniels, as a breed, have an underlying desire to please their owners. They strive to make their owners happy, whether that’s in training or just giving affection. They’re extremely food motivated. As a result, they’ll do anything for a treat which can make obedience training a breeze for some Cocker Spaniel owners. If you’ve got a treat in your pocket, you’ll have your Cockers attention!
A Reddit user spoke about her Cocker Spaniel’s eagerness to please.
They’re eager to please [and] food motivated. My dogs both flew through obedience classes because they knew I had food in my pocket, and they wanted it.
You’ve already got an advantage when it comes to training seeing as Cocker Spaniels are eager to please and food motivated. They’re also extremely intelligent. The infamous book on doggie IQ aptly named The Intelligence Of Dogs rated the Cocker Spaniel as the 20th most-intelligent dog breed. According to the author Stanley Coren, Cocker Spaniels should understand new commands in 5 to 15 repetitions and obey the first command 85% of the time or better. Let’s hear some firsthand experiences.
Leo the Cocker Spaniel (@_leo_the_cocker_) picked up basic commands in just two weeks!
I was so shocked and surprised at how quickly he picked up tricks and training! We had him for 2 weeks and he’d already mastered Come, Sit, Paw, Down & Roll Over! Toilet training was also a breeze with Leo, I can count on 2 hands how many accidents he had!
They are very intelligent: Cockers are very intelligent dogs, they pick up training very easily, and with the right work and patience, are even capable of things such as agility training!
Great family pets
You might be weighing up whether to get a Cocker Spaniel but you’re unsure whether the breed is suited to a home with young children. The AKC give the Cocker Spaniel a five-star rating for being good with young children. They tend to be a loving family pet who’ll like to engage with all members of the family. Of course, a Cocker Spaniel will require supervision at all times around children.
Alfie’s owner (@thecockerspaniel.alfie) shared that her Cocker is gentle around children.
Alfies a show Cocker so not sure if there’s much difference with working Cockers, but they’re so gentle and loyal so I’d say so.
A Reddit user with experience of owning a Cocker Spaniel shared her experience.
Great with kids, our last dog was excellent with our children, calm, patient and he liked spending time with them.
Cocker Spaniels will generally be quite open to meeting new people. This particular Spaniel breed tend to be outgoing and social with strangers and other dogs. However, you shouldn’t be complacent. When you bring your Cocker Spaniel puppy home, it’s a good idea to schedule some puppy manners classes and other controlled social interactions with pups. In doing so, you can help to develop their social skills and ability to handle new situations.
A Cocker Spaniel owner on Reddit underlined the importance of dedicating time to your dog’s training.
Its true, all puppies need lots of training and monitoring! Cockers are no exception to this rule! Dogs are just a lot of work, regardless of breed. Cockers are so so affectionate, sweet, and friendly if they’re raised correctly. I can’t think of a better breed to invest in.
Aside from anything else, there can be little argument that the Cocker Spaniel breed is beautiful. These dogs have gorgeous, flowing coats, big eyes and long eyelashes. The Cocker Spaniel can come in a range of different colours. The AKC’s website emphasises this point by stating that their “coat comes in enough colors and patterns to please any taste”. The organizaton adds, “those big, dark eyes; that sweet expression; those long, lush ears that practically demand to be touched, it’s no wonder the Cocker spent years as America’s most popular breed”.
Leo the Cocker Spaniel (@_leo_the_cocker_) listed their beautiful coats as a pro of the dog breed!
Their coats are beautiful, with lots of colour variations! One thing I love about Cockers, is you really do get a chocolate box of variety! From Solids, to particolours, to roans and sables, there are so many stunning colours and patterns!
Match your energy
Cocker Spaniels will require a fair amount of exercise but their requirements aren’t quite as exhaustive as some other Spaniel breeds. A common theme amongst the Cocker Spaniels that we encountered in the writing of this article is the breed’s adaptability. These versatile dogs can match the energy of their owner.
A Cocker owner explained what she meant when stating that Cockers match the energy of their owners.
My dogs are just as happy napping as they are going for a run.
Kat appeared to back up that sentiment on her Reddit post.
Exercise wise, they are energetic but are not over the top, they love lying around too.
Cocker Spaniel Cons
Prone to food allergies
Cocker Spaniels do appear to struggle with food allergies. During our research on the breed, we noticed a lot of Cocker Spaniel owners reference food allergies, sensitive stomachs and pickiness at mealtime. In my experience with two mini huskies who have sensitive tummies and are fussy with their food, it’s a good idea to feed a fresh dog food meals that are balanced and complete.
You can find our top picks for the best dog food delivery in the USA and the best dog food delivery in the UK. We believe in the benefits of feeding balanced and complete meals that are comprised of human-quality meat and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Steph (@stephandthespaniels) explained that she feeds her Cocker Spaniel a dog food company called Butternut Box.
We love Butternut Box. It’s so easy for the humans, not having to re order is a dream- it just turns up on subscription. This is a dream for a busy person. It’s all natural and healthy, what I feed the dogs is really important.
Separation anxiety is a chronic canine condition that can affect some dogs. It’s not a breed-specific condition. Any dog irrespective of breed or mix could struggle with anxiety when left alone. Some Cocker Spaniels can be anxious for a variety of different reasons, potentially including Cockers who haven’t received sufficient mental and physical stimulation.
Leo is an example of a Cocker Spaniel who has struggled with this chronic condition.
Separation Anxiety is a common problem: Cockers are generally VERY sociable dogs, who love spending time with their owners. This can often lead to separation anxiety. We’ve experienced this first hand with Leo, especially with the addition of Lockdowns, but it is something we continually work on!
Cocker Spaniels may have long, lush coats but it comes at a cost. It requires a lot of effort and maintenance to keep their coats looking beautiful. Cocker Spaniel owners will need to regularly brush their dogs to ensure their coats don’t get matted or tangled. The AKC has a word of warning for Cocker Spaniel owners who dare to neglect their grooming duties.
Cocker Spaniels require regular, thorough grooming. Sessions missed are not easily made up and may result in tangles or mats in the Cocker’s coat.
Seeing as grooming a Cocker Spaniel is quite an intensive and meticulous job, you may prefer to dedicate part of your budget to professional grooming. This is an added cost of dog ownership.
Leo’s owner shared her experience with grooming her Cocker Spaniel.
They require a lot of grooming: Cockers fur can be prone to matting, particularly in areas like under their front legs! If you don’t regularly groom them this can cause problems!
Some Cocker Spaniels may show some food aggression. What does that mean? The American Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Animals shared an explanation of this characteristic on their website:
Resource guarding in dogs can range from relatively benign behavior, like running away with a coveted item or growling at an approaching person, to full-blown aggression, such as biting or chasing a person away. Some dogs only direct resource guarding toward certain people, often strangers. Other dogs guard their resources from all people. Dogs vary in what they consider valuable. Some dogs only guard chew bones or toys. Some guard stolen items, such as food wrappers from the trash can or socks. Many dogs guard food.
If you’re thinking about getting a Cocker Spaniel, you may want to consider learning about food aggression and resource guarding so you can adopt good habits and prevent such behaviour from occurring.
Hard to potty train
While learning about the Cocker Spaniel breed, we found a number of Cocker Spaniel owners who shared that their dog was tricky to potty train. This could be for a variety of different reasons. The breed can be quite sensitive to temperature change. So late-night potty breaks could be tricky if it’s cold or wet outside. The breed can also be stubborn and wilful so it can be quite a battle of will when it comes to potty training.
An exasperated Cocker owner shared her frustrating experience on Reddit.
My 2 year old Cocker Spaniel dog pees in our apartment still. She is not a nervous dog, but shy when people reach out to pet her. She doesn’t bite, hardly barks, never has chewed anything but my underwear (my fault) and is overall perfect. She can do tricks and walks great on a loose leash. Why the heck can’t we get this dog 100% potty trained?? 90% of the time she does the deed outside, but that 10% has ruined our carpet and is embarrassing.
While Cocker Spaniels have flowery ears, they can present some problems. If they’re not properly maintained and monitored, the ears can be a breeding ground for potential infection.
The AKC warned that attention and care is required when maintaining a Cocker’s ears for the following reason: “Be cautious when combing ears; the skin at the edges is thin and can be pierced by too-vigorous combing”.
Alfie’s owner explained why a Cocker’s ears present such a potential problem.
Whilst their ears are super cute, they can get a lot of health issues with them, and they also dangle down quite low so when they’re eating/drinking/on wet walks. the ears can get quite dirty/wet.